'Farming being crucified by an insensitive, inflexible, overzealous agenda in planning' - Allister

TUV leader, Jim Allister, has said farming is “being crucified by an overzealous ammonia policy”.
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Speaking during the planning debate in the assembly on Monday, Mr Allister said: “The great burden of what I want to say is about the farming community.

“Our farming community, particularly our poultry industry, is being crucified by an overzealous ammonia policy. That has become worse with the department’s move away from its consultation in December to make it even more extreme.

“I could cite multiple cases. In one case, a constituent of mine has been waiting for approval for a new broiler house for six and a half years. There has been ping-ponging between the Shared Environmental Service (SES), the NIEA and Planning NI.

Jim Allister MLA. (Pic: stock image)Jim Allister MLA. (Pic: stock image)
Jim Allister MLA. (Pic: stock image)

“They seem to take great delight in frustrating the application and never reaching a decision, giving no thought to the fact that the motivation behind the application is that a second generation wants to join the farming enterprise and can do that only if planning permission is got.

“No regard is shown for their livelihood or anything else. The manner in which the ammonia direction is being abused to penalise planning applicants is beyond a disgrace.”

He continued: “I will give members another case, concerning a farmer who is both a dairy farmer and a poultry farmer.

“He wants to upgrade his houses on the poultry side and needs planning permission to do so. He is willing to offer a reduction in his dairy herd in mitigation so that he can get extra on the poultry side, but a silo mentality leads the planning department to say, ‘We’re not interested in whether you diminish your dairy side. We are interested only in the fact that you are going to increase your poultry side’.

“Where is the logic in the supposed mitigation policy that applies to ammonia? It is not there.

“I find that to be very frustrating for so many of our farmers, particularly in North Antrim, where we have these precious bogs, about which the incoming Agriculture Minister will no doubt be more excited than he will about helping farming.

“If you are within 7.5 km of one of those bogs, dear help you – you will have no chance of even modestly increasing your farming enterprise, even though you are moving to better housing with fewer emissions than you currently have.

“I gave the example of the dairy farm and the poultry house. In that case, because of the layout of the farmyard, the farmer could increase his dairy herd through permitted development — asking no one — therefore increasing his emissions. When, however, he comes along and asks, ‘Can I please mitigate the increase in the poultry side through a reduction on the dairy side?’, the response is, ‘No. We’re not interested’.

“Unless and until those issues are addressed, farming will continue to be crucified by an insensitive, inflexible, overzealous agenda in the planning sector,” Mr Allister added.